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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sheldon Richman on Nock

...for Nock, the United States does not represent the radical break in political history that it is often made out to be. It metamorphosed from the British system of privilege (through land grants, tariffs, and other enactments), despite the Jeffersonian window-dressing, then forged a distinctly American form of the merchant-State. Stripped to essentials, it was Oppenheimer’s organization of the political means, with the business class as the prime beneficiary.

Part of Nock’s view is colored by his position on land ownership. Nock was a follower of Henry George, who held that no individual has the right to the value of land per se because that value is created not by the putative owner, but by the community. Thus that value should be taxed for the benefit of the community — the famous “single tax.” (The individual user of land, however, did have the right to the fruits of his labor.) For George and Nock, a host of evils grow out of a Lockean notion of property ownership, including land speculation and scarcity. (Nock was no fan of Locke or Adam Smith.) But Nock’s view of American history is also shaped by a view of ownership that is not dependent on George’s position. Nock (like Rothbard after him) condemned the political creation of scarcity in land — the process by which rulers parcel out property (which they never homesteaded) to favored interests, who then charge rent for others to use and occupy it. This thoroughly illegitimate “land monopoly” creates far-ranging injustices. For example, it prevents competition and closes off options to the mass of people, forcing them to work for others, depressing wages, and leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. In a society without land privilege, workers would have alternatives to standard employment. Nock thought the initial distribution of land was crucial, and that many in society suffer long after that distribution is made. This suffering then is used to justify further state intervention.


Blogger Sheldon Richman said...

Thanks, Kevin!

July 22, 2006 2:38 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

As you're probably well aware, many of the "founding fathers" were "surveyors", which is another term for land-grabber.
They would "survey" a territory, either as an agent of someone else, or on their own, and claim all the land that they could mark the boundaries of. It was a way of quasi-fraudulently homesteading an area.

And many of the early political disputes of the Colonial/Revolutionary age were over land distribution and taxation.

Even if you don't believe in a Georgist version of landed property, Nock was still very close to the mark.

July 23, 2006 10:35 PM  
Blogger LVT Fan said...

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was very conscious of the evils of land speculation? Here's a quote from a letter he wrote his law partner in Bloomington, Illinois:

"If I made the investment it would constantly turn my attention to that kind of business; and so far disqualify me from what seems to be my calling and success in it and interfere with the public or half public service which I neither seek nor avoid.

"I respect the man who properly named these villains, land sharks. They are like the wretched ghouls who follow a ship and fatten on its offal.

"The land, the earth God gave to man for his home, sustenance and support, should never be in the possession of any man, corporation, society or unfriendly government any more than air or water -- if as much. An individual or company, or enterprise, acquiring land should hold no more than is required for their home and sustenance, and never more than they have in actual use in the prudent management of their legitimate business, and this much should not be permitted when it creates an exclusive monopoly. All that is not so used should be held for the free use of every family to make homesteads and to hold them as long as they are so occupied.

"The idle talk of foolish men, that is so common now, will find its way against it, with whatever force it may possess, and as strongly promoted and carried on as it can be by land monopolists, grasping landlords and the titled and untitled senseless enemies of mankind everywhere.

"On other questions there is ample room for reform when the time comes; but now it would be folly to think we could take more than we have in hand. But when slavery is over and settled, men should never rest content while oppression, wrongs and iniquities are enforced against them."

*Quoted by Robert H. Browne, M.D., in his two volumes of "Abraham Lincoln and the Men of his Time."

August 01, 2006 2:09 PM  

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